BlackBerry phones escape UAE ban

Regulators in the United Arab Emirates have done a U-turn on the proposed 11 October ban, saying that BlackBerry services are now compliant and should continue functioning as normal
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Encrypted BlackBerry services in the United Arab Emirates will not be blocked on Monday as had been planned, according to the country's regulator.

The reversal of the country's decision to ban BlackBerry email, messaging and web browsing services was announced on Friday as a result of "positive engagement and collaboration" with Research In Motion (RIM), makers of the BlackBerry smartphones, the regulator said.

"The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has confirmed that BlackBerry services are now compliant with the UAE's [United Arab Emirates] telecommunications regulatory framework. Therefore, the TRA has confirmed today that all such services in the UAE will continue to operate as normal and no suspension of service will occur on 11 October, 2010," the regulator said in a statement.

At the beginning of August, the TRA said that it would begin blocking certain features of BlackBerry smartphones that send users' data to servers overseas. RIM devices also automatically encrypt browsing, email and instant messaging information, making it much harder for authorities to monitor.

After the UAE announced its intended ban, countries including Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and India also said they would also suspend the services, largely because of the encryption used on the devices.

Last Friday, Indian authorities said that the measures RIM had taken were insufficient and that it was still unable to intercept and monitor transmissions. India moved the start of its suspension of BlackBerry services from 31 August to 31 October, one day before it was due to begin.

"RIM cannot discuss the details of confidential regulatory matters that occur in specific countries, but RIM confirms that it continues to approach lawful access matters internationally within the framework of core principles that were publicly communicated by RIM on 12 August," said RIM in a statement on Friday.

Those core proposals say that carriers' capabilities will be limited to the strict context of lawful access and national security requirements. They also state that carriers are technology and vendor neutral, meaning that they allow national regulators no greater access to BlackBerry consumer services than it gives to its competitors.

The Canadian smartphone maker has said in the past that it will not make changes to its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) "since, contrary to any rumours, the security architecture is the same around the world and RIM truly has no ability to provide its customers' encryption keys".

RIM has previously also said that it maintains a consistent global standard "that does not include specific deals for specific countries".

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